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Lights back On In Indonesian Quake City, But Fate Of Thousands Unknown

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Foreign Aid Picks Up For Indonesia's Desperate Quake Survivors

Some services began returning to normal in Indonesia’s quake and tsunami stricken city of Palu on Thursday, but the fate of many thousands of people in outlying districts remained unknown nearly a week after the disaster struck.

The small city of 370,000 people has been the focus of the aid effort launched after last Friday’s 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on the west coast of Sulawesi island.

International help for survivors has gathered pace, but communities in more remote areas have been cut off by broken roads, landslides and crippled communications, leaving people increasingly desperate for basic needs as aid has only just begun to trickle through.

By Thursday, the official death toll stood at 1,424, but it is widely expected to rise as most of the dead accounted for have been from Palu, while figures for remote areas are trickling in or remain unknown.

“There are so many challenges with this disaster, it’s never been so bad,” said Frida Sinta, an aid volunteer trying to get help out to fellow residents of Palu.

The city, 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, has teetered close to chaos this week, with outbreaks of looting, but a recovery was evident as some shops and banks reopened and a major mobile phone network was back in operation.

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Orderly queues formed at petrol stations after the arrival of fuel shipments and the power came back on, at least in parts of the city.

The improvements are helping with the aid effort.

“We carry whatever we can by car or motorbike within the city wherever we can. But not yet to the most inaccessible places,” Sinta said.

State port operator Pelindo IV said Palu’s port, which was damaged by the quake and tsunami, was open, though a Reuters reporter in the city said she had not seen any shipping activity.

Altogether, the badly affected areas in the disaster zone includes some 1.4 million people.

Rescue workers are pushing into outlying districts, where residents have said they have been scavenging for coconuts, bananas and cassava.

Villagers rushed a Red Cross helicopter that landed near the town of Donggala, northwest of Palu, to distribute bread and other food, a Reuters photographer said.

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National disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a briefing the main roads to the south, west and east of Palu had been opened but there has been scant information about conditions on the road to the north, along the coast toward the epicenter of the quake, 78 km (50 miles) from Palu.

“There’s no data,” said Abdul Haris of the national search and rescue agency, when asked about the string of small settlements that line the road, which passes some sandy beaches that attract a trickle of tourists.

“Places have been damaged by the tsunami along the coast,” Nugroho said, but he had no details.

‘DIFFICULT TIME’

International aid is beginning to arrive, including supplies from Britain and Australia, after the government overcame a traditional reluctance to accept help from abroad.

The United Nations announced an allocation of $15 million on Wednesday while the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was appealing for 22 million Swiss francs ($22 million).

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The United States had provided initial funding and disaster experts and was working to determine what other help could be given, the State Department said.

Indonesian Central Bank Governor Perry Warjiyo played down the impact on Southeast Asia’s biggest economy of the disaster in Sulawesi, and of earlier deadly quakes on the tourist island of Lombok.

“This is really a challenging and difficult time for Indonesia and for all of us, but we are united and we stand strong,” he told a briefing of the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club late on Wednesday.

Straddling the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia has long been vulnerable to quakes and tsunamis.

In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

But safety measures implemented after that disaster, including tsunami warning systems, failed on Friday.

A network of tsunami-detecting buoys has been out of action since 2012. President Joko Widodo has ordered it be repaired and maintained.

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New Zealand: 49 Killed In Mass Shooting At Two Mosques In Christchurch

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New Zealand: 49 Killed In Mass Shooting At Two Mosques In Christchurch

49 persons have been killed and 20 seriously injured in two mass shootings at mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Forty-one were killed at the al Noor mosque. Seven died at the Linwood mosque, and one person died at the hospital.

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Police say four persons, including three men and one woman, have been taken into custody. They do not believe there are any other suspects but said it was still an open investigation.

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Police said a male, in his late 20s, has been charged with murder and will appear at the Christchurch court Saturday morning local time.

In a social media post just before the attack, an account that is believed to belong to one of the attackers posted a link to an 87-page manifesto that was filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideas and explanations for an attack. The manifesto was not signed.

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Britain Votes In Favor Of Delaying Brexit

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British Parliament Vote In Favor Of Delaying Brexit

Britain’s parliament has voted in favour of delaying by three months, UK’s departure from the European Union pending approval of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal within a week.

MPs in the house of commons voted four hundred twelve to two hundred two on Thursday in Favour of a government motion proposing pushing the UK’s exit from the bloc beyond the scheduled March the 29th date.

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The motion said the government would seek a “one-off extension” until June the 30th “for the purpose of passing the necessary EU exit legislation,” provided May’s widely maligned deal wins parliament’s approval by Wednesday next week.

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If May fails to win parliamentary approval for her deal by march 20, the Brexit delay could be extended beyond three months. Twice now, British legislators have overwhelmingly rejected her EU divorce deal.

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Israel Launches Gaza Air Attacks After Rockets Fired At Tel Aviv

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Israel Launches Gaza Air Attacks After Rockets Fired At Tel Aviv

Israel launched air attacks on Gaza hours after rockets were fired aimed at Tel Aviv.

This has raised fears of a major escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Explosions were heard in the Gaza strip early on Friday and Palestinian witnesses said Israeli planes bombed Hamas security positions.

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A Gaza Palestinian security source told AFP news agency about 30 raids targeted positions held by the military wing of Hamas and its ally Islamic jihad, causing significant damage.

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Local Palestinian agencies reported a woman and her husband were both injured in the southern city of Rafah, but did not provide further details.

Israeli military said it was attacking “terror sites” in Gaza, hours after it said two rockets were launched from the enclave in the Tel Aviv area.

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